Big Tech and Journalism: Principles for Fair Compensation

Kenya Editors’ Guild  is among organisations that have endorsed the ‘Principles for Fair Compensation’ adopted during the Big Tech and Journalism – Building a Sustainable Future for the Global South conference held  at the Gordon Institute of Business Science  in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 4, 2023.

The Principles are intended to be universal, serving as a framework for any country seeking to address media sustainability through competition or regulatory approaches, while enabling adaptation to the unique context.

The principles include;

1. Public interest
Mechanisms should support and invest in public interest journalism, by which we mean news and
information produced to professional journalistic standards which informs the public about
matters that are relevant to their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Mechanisms may also
have the effect of supporting other forms of journalism, but – other things being equal – they
should prioritise the support of public interest journalism.

2. Plurality
Mechanisms should support plurality in the platform and publishing markets. In particular,
mechanisms should have a net positive impact on the plurality of publishers in a market. They
should not create a bias in favour of incumbent publishers or platforms but should serve to
mitigate any incumbency bias so that the public can – in the medium to long term – benefit from
a greater range of platforms and publishers. Very small, medium and start-up publishers must be
able to benefit.

3. Diversity
Mechanisms should support diversity in the news publishing market and should have a net
positive impact on the range of content, voices and languages represented in the news market,
including the voices of historically under-represented and marginalised groups. They should not
create a bias in favour of historically dominant voices.

4. Sustainability
Mechanisms should support sustainability in the news publishing market, for individual
publishers and the sector as a whole, by ensuring they receive fair compensation for the use of
their intellectual property and content. Mechanisms should adapt to evolving market conditions
and enhance the likelihood that publishers can build diverse revenue streams.

5. Fairness
Mechanisms should ensure that terms of engagement between platforms and publishers are
consistent across a market, and do not allow individual platforms or publishers to strike
preferential arrangements. This does not mean that all platforms should give all publishers the
same amount of money. But it does mean that the basis for payments and usage deals should be
the same for all publishers in that market, and determined using objectively verifiable criteria.
Platforms should not be able to favour certain publishers simply because those publishers have
greater political influence or larger market capitalisation, for example. It also means that all deals
between platforms and publishers should be agreed upon in a similarly timely manner and that
neither party should be able to use their comparative bargaining power to drag out negotiations.

6. Collectivity
Small and medium-sized publishers should be allowed to coordinate their efforts, which may
include collective bargaining with platforms.

7. Transparency
The highest possible degree of transparency should be adopted for both the process by which
policy interventions are designed and implemented as well as the outcomes obtained. Both
platforms and publishers should adopt the highest possible degree of transparency so that all
parties can judge the fairness of any deal and so that third parties can assess and evaluate the
impact of the mechanism as a whole. For example, mechanisms may require platforms and
publishers to share data about the size and behaviour of their audiences and advertising
placements. Considerations may still be given to competition concerns. Where personal or
commercially sensitive data is involved, it may be shared only between the parties and with any
enforcement body. All information should be shared with the public when suitably aggregated
and anonymised.

8. Accountability
Mechanisms should not inhibit the freedom of publishers, through their journalism, to hold
platforms accountable for their actions, or the freedom of platforms to criticise publishers. The
terms of engagement between them should be openly published to ensure that all parties can be
held accountable and to build confidence with the public.
Third-party assessors that are independent of any enforcement body should be able to review
these mechanisms and their outcomes. They must have the power to make recommendations to
such a body and, where necessary and appropriate, legislatures. They should ensure a meaningful
opportunity for public consultation on the performance of the mechanisms.

9. Independence
Mechanisms should be overseen and enforced by bodies that are demonstrably independent of
both the platform and publishing industries. Whilst these bodies may, where appropriate, be
established and funded by national or regional governments, they must be operationally
independent of political influence and sufficiently well-funded to mitigate any risk of undue
interference. Enforcement bodies should have clear aims and objectives to allow industry,
researchers, civil society, and the public to determine whether or not they are meeting these aims
and objectives.

10. Outcomes
Mechanisms should be outcomes-oriented, with the principles of public interest, plurality,
diversity, and sustainability of the media at their heart. They should be assessed against these
outcomes on a regular basis by independent third parties, who should be in a position to publish
an honest and robust critique of the performance of the mechanisms.